As rural areas face ongoing challenges such as globalization and urbanization, it’s important to understand the economic and social impact of changes that affect small towns and communities. In his article for the Future Economic Rural Network (FERN), Jonathan Davies explores the consequences of moving cattle markets out of market towns, a trend that has occurred in many rural areas. This shift has resulted in significant changes to the economic and social fabric of these towns, and Davies’ article provides a nuanced examination of these impacts. Through his analysis, he sheds light on the complex relationship between rural economies and the agricultural industry, providing insights that can help inform policies and practices to support the long-term sustainability of rural communities. 

For many years, cattle markets were a staple of town centres throughout the UK, serving as a hub of commerce and community activity. However, in recent years, many of these markets have been relocated from town centres to out-of-town locations. While there are benefits to this move, it has had a significant impact on the social and economic prosperity of market towns.

One of the primary impacts of moving cattle markets out of town centres has been the decline in footfall and trade for local businesses. For many market towns, the weekly cattle market was a significant source of passing trade, attracting visitors from neighbouring areas and boosting the local economy. With the relocation of the market, this source of business has been lost, and many businesses have struggled to attract customers and generate revenue.

More than just Cattle Markets loss

The loss of the market has had a broader impact on the local economy, as well. In many cases, the local cattle market was the largest source of employment and economic activity in the town. With its relocation, jobs have been lost, and local economies have been destabilized.

Another impact of this changing trend has often led to a decline in property values and an increase in empty storefronts, which can be detrimental to the long-term viability of the town.

The impact of the move has also been felt in the social and cultural fabric of the town. For many market towns, the cattle market was a central gathering place for locals, providing an opportunity to catch up with friends and neighbours, do business, and engage in the local community. The relocation of the market has led to a decline in the sense of community and identity in these towns, as there is no longer a central hub for people to congregate.

Hurting the environment

Furthermore, the environmental impact of moving cattle markets out of town centres should also be considered. Transportation emissions associated with the movement of livestock to and from the out-of-town location, as well as potential habitat destruction and increased development on the outskirts of town, may have negative effects on the environment.

However, it is important to note that there are also benefits to moving cattle markets out of town centres. One such benefit is the reduction of traffic congestion and animal welfare. The move has also helped reduce the risk of disease transmission from livestock to humans, particularly in densely populated urban areas.

Overall, the relocation of cattle markets from town centres to out-of-town locations has had both positive and negative impacts on market towns and their social and economic prosperity. While there are benefits associated with the move, the negative impacts on local businesses, communities, and the environment must be taken into account. Strategies to mitigate these impacts, such as investing in alternative economic development opportunities for the town and prioritizing sustainable and environmentally-friendly transport options for the movement of livestock, may help to ensure that market towns remain vibrant and prosperous in the long-term.

The original version of this article was published on February 17 on the Disrupter Davies blog